I started the day very fussy. My feet were bothering me, and I couldn’t decide which shoes to wear, and my Band-Aid Blister Blockers wouldn’t stay on. And because we were going to the Magic Kingdom we would be far from the room/car if I needed to switch shoes. That’s a lot of pressure! Then I was cranky because we had to take a bus to the MK because everyone knows it’s a total waste of time to take your car, but I hate waiting for buses. Never mind that it was a gorgeous day, the sun was shining, the temperature was mild, we had a lovely shady bus stop, and we were going to the Magic Kingdom, fer cryin’ out loud!!!
The bus pulled up mere moments after we got there, which I grudgingly admitted was nice. Of course the sign in the window gave me pause…
Once you can get past the utter horror of having to ride the bus, you have to admit it’s kind of nice to be dropped right at the front of the park.
The first thing we did after stepping off the bus was hop on a train! Well, actually, the first thing I did was pitch a fit because my blister blockers had come off two steps inside the front gate. Patrick, bless his heart, sat me down in a shoeshine chair under the train station, took my shoes off and helped me put on new blister blockers and the socks I’d stashed in our bag. What a sweetie!
So THEN we hopped a train, yet another thing we’d never ever do first thing in the morning at the MK in Commando Tourist mode.
After making the Grand Circle Tour of the Magic Kingdom, we decided to hit Tomorrowland and see what the big deal was with the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. We’d been once on our honeymoon and found it mildly amusing – and it was funnier than we’d expected. But upon hearing that Jennifaerie & Rob had done it eight times in a row, we had to check it out again and see what we’d been missing.
First of all, bless them for standing through the interminable wait between shows in that bland lobby.
And I love the huge signs bearing legal disclaimers about sharing your intellectual property by texting in jokes for the show. I think they must’ve been dreamed up by the same suits who decided Disneyland’s City Hall should no longer write down guest complaints because someone might sue the company for stealing an idea if the thing s/he complained about was fixed!
We did not have an ideal Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor experience. We got herded to the very back of the auditorium, so there was zero chance we’d be picked on to play in the game. Boooo!
After we were herded out of the Laugh Floor, I announced that it was my turn to pick the next ride so I could surprise Patrick and steer us toward the Tomorrowland Speedway – a ride he always seems to want to do and I never want to do. (Subconsciously I must’ve been trying to earn “Good Wife” points after callously dragging him all over WDW when he had food poisoning.) Call me crazy, but the idea of puttering along a fixed track at 4.99 MPH while sucking exhaust from the car crawling ahead of me is not my idea of a good way to spend $75 (or whatever daily admission costs these days). I get enough of that kind of frustration driving L.A.’s freeways every day!
But we’d never done the Speedway before, and at least there wasn’t a 55-minute wait in blazing summer heat to contend with. P:atrick graciously let me drive.
It was fun to see what the Magic Kingdom’s scenery looked like compared to ours at Disneyland. And at the end, a CM offered to take our picture! From the Speedway, it was a natural choice to hit up the Peoplemover as the next activity in our transportation-filled day.
We got you these top-secret photos of the construction going on at the site of the former Tomorrowland Theater. They’re installing a highly-themed multi-million dollar E-Ticket ride based on an original idea that was not dreamt up by Pixar and which will completely revitalize the moribund Tomorrowland. …. Just kidding – they’re putting in a cast parking lot!
But let’s put all that out of our minds and instead focus on this:
Now approaching construction of yet another low-value guest experience: Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration Stage.
By the end of our Peoplemover ride we were starving, and, since we still haven’t found a good restaurant at MK, we decided to try the newly refurbished Nine Dragons at Epcot.
So our journey that day took us from a bus, to a train, to a car, to the Peoplemover and then… to the Monorail! (As Nathan said, it sounds like a children’s book in the making!)
We’d never eaten at Nine Dragons. Before the refurbishment, it always sounded like the kind of greasy Americanized Chinese food your grandma would drag you out for. Don’t get me wrong, I love Americanized Chinese food. But there’s the fresh, well-prepared kind and then there’s the high fructose corn syrup-drenched chunks of stringy meat served in a creepy, windowless Imperial palace-looking place in the corner of a 1980s Camarillo, CA strip mall. Hmmm. I seem to be exorcising some personal demons there….
Anyway, I was really surprised by how much I loved Nine Dragons! I loved the new spin on the traditional decor, and I thought the food was fresh, creative, and delicious. Because of that, you’ll have to endure lots of pictures.
After a bad experience with a broken door lock in the old ladies’ room, I was excited to see they’d redone the restrooms too!
We got a nice table right by the window, where we could people-watch and gaze into the sparkly lagoon. We started with the Chicken Consomme with Pork Dumplings
Followed by the Shrimp and Taro Lollipops.
Holy crap, were these tasty! Each one was a small shrimp wrapped in taro, uh, dough and fried. They were served with a slightly sweet dipping sauce, the remainder of which I ended up dumping on my rice, it was so good.
Lunch was classic Sweet and Sour Pork (split).
One funny thing: the little boy at the table next to us had been chattering away for the whole meal, asking tons of questions and making humorously sweeping declarations about life. After they placed their order, he asks in a loud voice, “Moooom – why do you always have to get alcohol all the time? Why, mom?!” Yikes…
Toward the end of the meal, Patrick started to get antsy cuz I’d told him he could go play with the stick thingies in at the cart in front of China only after we ate. As we were waiting for the bill, he was like, “Um, I could go ahead and check out the stick thingies while you pay. Oh wait – but I want you to be there to watch me do the stick thingies…” It was really cute.
I also tried to get a pic of the sparkly water, but you still can’t really tell.
OK, so what I forgot to mention earlier is that after we hung out with the Roots on Saturday, I started to wish more and more that they would be at our surprise anniversary party to get pictures of Patrick’s reaction and the food and the fireworks. I’d briefly considered the idea months before, but since it was just going to be the two of us on a private patio, I thought it would be awkward to make our pals stand around snapping pictures of us eating for 2 hours.
So I began to formulate a plan whereby Nathan & Jensey could come to the beginning of the party for the surprise part and then come back just in time for IllumiNations, with a date night at Epcot for them in between. I’m not sure this is actually the Roots’ idea of a hot date, but they graciously agreed to the plan when I emailed Jensey about the idea.
On this day (what day are we on? Tuesday?) I needed to get some shots of our dessert party’s location to send to Nathan & Jensey so they’d know where to show up the next night. So after Patrick had had his fill of Chinese stick play and I had been duly impressed, I told him a big fat fib about needing to take reception location pictures for “the girls on the DIS Boards” (who turned out to be a great cover for all the secret text messaging I did in the next 18 hours as I pulled the party together – thanks, Girls on the DIS Boards!).
From there, we decided to take a Friendship boat to DHS and look for the walkaround Bolt characters we’d heard someone mention. I couldn’t wait to see how they’d managed a human-size version of a hamster in a ball!
On the trip over, we got to talking with the captain about the previous day’s weather, and the conversation naturally turned toward what else but Toni’s wedding. The captain was talking about how there was supposed to be a wedding at Sea Breeze Point that day, but that it was moved into the BoardWalk Conference Center, and he caught a glimpse of the bride. I was like “I know her! Well, I mean, I’ve never met her, but it’s like I know her, cuz of, um, the Internets…and… uh….” [blank stare] “…Um, we got married in Morocco!” When he heard this, the captain got on the microphone and told the whole boat that we were married in Morocco and were celebrating our anniversary, and the other passengers gave us round of applause! It reminded me of when we hopped a boat from the BoardWalk to the Beach Club after our wedding reception and got a spontaneous round of applause. Pretty soon I’m just going to expect one every time we get on a Friendship Boat….
We arrived at DHS and proceeded up the ramp, a horde of well-wishers following us, singing and dancing and tossing rose petals to celebrate our departure from the boat.
I guess we were self-editing, cuz neither of us took the standard pix of the gate, up the main drag, and walk over to the Character Cattle Call – er, Cavalcade, er… what’s that place called anyway? Ah, here it is: The Magic of Disney Animation… huh…?
We did get one picture:
On our way to see Bolt, we found Frozone chillin’ by himself (ba-da-bing!), so we thought we’d give him something to do.
The Bolt characters were in the main meet ‘n’ greet corral, which had been devoted to Wall*E on our last trip. This time, there was a long line snaking around behind the photo backdrop, and Patrick gamely waited in it for about 30 minutes while I creeped people out by standing alone at the railing watching their kids get their pictures taken with Bolt and Rhino.
When I got bored, I took the Disney personality test that tells you which character you’re most like…. a few times. Apparently, depending on my answer to just one question, I am either Belle or Maleficent. Who knew the line between good and evil was so fine? (Of course that line is the answer to the question “Which do you prefer, to eat dinner with interesting people or to eat interesting people for dinner?”)
So, Bolt looked pretty dang good! I mean, it’s always weird to see four-legged character walking around on two, but his features were spot on. Rhino… not so much. For one thing, no ball!!! How cute would that have been, to see him inside a ginormous ball? OK, I’m sure, logistically, it would have been a nightmare for the performer (and potentially deadly!). But the other thing was, his eyes and eyelids were fixed in such a way that made him look kinda maniacal. OK, maybe that’s not too out of character for Rhino….
As we were leaving, we asked Rhino where his ball was, to which responded with the classic mime-in-a-box motions. Tee hee!
When we got out of the Magic of Disney Animation, having seen absolutely no animation, we wandered around for a while trying to think of something to do.
We decided to do a photo reenactment of Patrick’s sick day so we’d have picture for the trip report…. which I forgot to put in at the appropriate day of the trip report…
Here are some other things Patrick took pictures of at DHS…
Here’s what I took a picture of!
Finally, we had to admit we were completely bored by Hollywood Studios and took off. We got out of the gate just as a Friendship Boat was pulling away from the dock, so we decided to walk back to the Beach Club. I’d never done it before – I didn’t even know where the path was! It was very nice.
As it turned out, we beat the Friendship Boat back to our hotel. In your FACE, Friendship Boat!!!!
I asked Patrick to take some pix of Hurricane Hanna’s for the girls on the board, but this time it was for real. You can actually hold private events there.
That night we had a reservation at Narcoossee’s, so we took a little time to get spiffed up. Originally our reservation had been for right after the MK’s fireworks, since I’ve heard that you can’t see the show from your table anyway because everyone runs out to the balcony and blocks the windows. However, a few months before the trip I got to thinking about how we’d only seen Wishes from inside the MK once, and that it might be nice to eat at Narcoossee’s early and then take a boat over in time to see the show. So I switched our ADR to 5:45pm.
Because the trek from the Grand Floridian’s self-park lot rivals the trek to the Attic (but with more traffic lights) Patrick dropped me off and I went ahead to check in for our reservation. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the Tables In Wonderland card gets you free valet parking when you’re dining at the resorts – d’oh!
As I waited to be seated, a cook came to the bar end of the kitchen near the lobby and put these guys out for the kids to look at:
That was… depressing. But what was even more depressing was the table they eventually lead me to: I kid you not, it was right by the door to the other end of the kitchen! I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings the way I apparently did back at Liberty Tree Tavern, so I made up some lame excuse about not wanting to sit so close to the cooking smells, and he moved me forward about five tables to a window seat with a view of the castle!
Of course then I felt like a real jerk when the manager had to come out and make sure I was far enough away from said cooking smells… gulp!
When Patrick finally got there (hours later – it might have been days!), I guess he took a few pix from the balcony, cuz we have these:
Gee, I haven’t run into anyone from the Internets in pages and pages – how about Bobbie & David? They got married the day before we did and had a reception at Italy Isola that looked like a lot of fun. A few days before this trip, I discovered that they were having their anniversary dinner at Narcoossee’s right around the time we’d be there! So just a few minutes after we were seated, they were shown to a table nearby and we finally got to meet in person and take a picture together.
David is very DIS-savvy and knew all about trip reports, the Weddings & Honeymoons board, and the various abbreviations. He commiserated with Patrick about the whole “DH” as shorthand for “dear husband” thing. Bobbie and David are so much fun to talk to – we probably could have spent our whole evening standing by their table chatting. Fortunately for them, our waiter distracted us by waving personalized menus under our noses, and we left them to enjoy their romantic anniversary celebration without the Lurkyloos looming over them.
We’ve eaten at Narcoossee’s twice now, and since we had the same experience both times, I am going to make the grand proclamation that the place is overrated. The food just isn’t that great! The service was efficient, the view of course can’t be beat, but the quality of the ingredients and their preparation… meh… However, it didn’t really matter, because we still had a great time. I don’t know if it was because we sat next to each other instead of across from each other or because it was the eve of our anniversary and we were thinking about where we’d been a year before at that moment or what, but the evening just felt really romantic.
Apparently Patrick started with a fruity drink, cuz we have a picture of one:
OK, that was very good and had nice chunks of crab in it.
… was not good at all. The scallops were not fresh – they tasted metallic and chewy.
But I didn’t care. We were snuggled up together and Patrick was kissing my hand and the sun was setting – it was perfect!
Toward the end of dinner the waiter disappeared for a long time. We were just about to do a runner when he reappeared with this:
After dinner it was too cold to take a boat, so we hopped the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. We wandered up to the Hub and were surprised to find plenty of good spots still available for Wishes, so we stood in one for 45 minutes waiting for the show to start. It was so cold, we had to hold hands in Patrick’s jacket pockets most of the time, except for when he took these:
FINALLY the fireworks started and…. we could barely see them! I felt so dumb – at Disneyland, where the castle is short, the Hub is the perfect spot to watch the fireworks. But it didn’t occur to me that the view might be different with a taller castle. No wonder no one was standing up there with us – we were too close! So we dashed back toward Main Street as far as we dared without disturbing other people and got a pretty decent spot.
In fact, it was like I was seeing Wishes for the first time! Now I know why so many people like the show. We’d spent the past year watching them from everywhere *but* in front: California Grill, the Polynesian, Cinderella’s Royal Table, our room at the Grand Floridian. What a waste of time – you gotta be right there!
So pardon the copious amounts of photos – we were kinda excited….
After the show we allowed ourselves to be swept out of the park in the sea of humanity and were carried up to the monorail back to the GF. Then we trudged what felt like an similar distance from the lobby to the self-park lot to retrieve Clementine and zip off to Downtown Disney to see T-REX!
Patrick was excited – what dinosaur lover wouldn’t be?
Inexplicably, the speakers outside “T-Rex Cafe: A Prehistoric Family Adventure” were blaring smooth jazz. It may have been playing inside too, but it was kinda hard to hear over the death screams of a pterodactyl caught in a regularly reoccurring meteor shower.
The noise level in this place makes Rainforest Cafe look like the public library. Normally, it’s set to 11, but when the meteor shower hits, it’s set to stun.
When you walk in, it’s chaos. The store is next to the check-in desk next to the bar. People are milling about with their heads tilted back, eyes as big as saucers, and mouths gaping open – and those are just the servers!
Finally someone at the check-in desk realizes you’re actually there to eat and not just gape, so they toss you a rope and reel you in through the sea of humanity. A perky host or hostess walks you two steps into the 30,000-square-foot, 600-seat restaurant and gives you the table by the door as you crane your neck to see what you’re missing in the main rooms.
Since we’d already had dinner and picked at dessert, we figured we’d just get something light – you know, like 8 square inches of stacked ice cream sandwiches drowning in fudge and Heath Bars.
After we ate, we wandered around the main parts of the restaurant taking pictures and marveling at the spectacle. But once you really start to look at the animatronics, you wish they’d hired Disney to do them. They’re very creaky and simplistic, with just one main motion repeated endlessly.
So then you think, well, OK, but it’s really supposed to be a restaurant, not an E-Ticket ride. But the food isn’t very good, so, um, I guess it’s really just a big shop to sell build-your-own-dinosaurs and push smooth jazz!
We knew it was time to go when our ears started bleeding. When we got back to our room, we discovered a package had been delivered. It turned out to be an anniversary surprise of two honeymoon pins and lanyards from our Wedding Consultant, Joe!
What a great kick-off to the next day’s anniversary celebration! (And no, I didn’t let Patrick trade away either of the pins.)